It had been a long day for me. The previous two nights had been practically sleepless for me. One night because it was my birthday and I stayed up late, next night because I was on the plane and watching my favourite movie. The entire day had been tiring. I managed to muster up only 5 hours of sleep that morning after which the rest of the day was spent moving luggage around. After dinner, the night was spent with a part of my cleaning marathon with cookie monster. That lasted till midnight. I was almost dead by then. I desperately needed some sleep. So at midnight, I gratefully turned off the lights and crashed on my bed. Sleep came to me instantly. It was such a deep slumber.
Then at 3am it happens. The fire alarm which is just outside my rooms starts to ring. My hostel is a huge place with several blocks. In each floor there are two clusters of rooms. Each cluster has 15 rooms. It just so happened that the alarm was ringing only in my cluster. A few drowsy students in my cluster (including me) just popped our heads out to see if there was a fire anywhere. We then just shut our doors and went back to bed, lying down and waiting for the alarm to stop its shrill and irritating ring. Nobody really bothered to follow the fire drill. Nobody was even bothered to make an effort to find out if there was a real fire.
The alarm soon became quiet again. It probably realized that nobody was impressed with its antics in the middle of the night. Silence fell again. But I just could not go back to sleep. I lay for about an hour on my bed, wide awake. Thats when it struck me.
Nobody really bothered to follow the fire drill. Nobody was even bothered to make an effort to find out if there was a real fire. Why was this?
Then my mind travelled back in time... to the first semester when my hostel had its first fire drill... It was sometime in the evening. It was announced well ahead of time that they were going to have fire drills for 2 evenings. One evening would be for all the blocks in one half of the hostel and the second day for the other half. Afterall, my hostel is a big place. It was just a drill to let the students know what to do in case there was a real fire. That was quite a sensible thing to do and most of the students co-operated. I guess the drill was a success.
Then started the annoying series of "drills". For no good reason, the alarm would start ringing in the middle of the night... not just once in a while, but quite often. At first I thought they were just testing us to see if we knew what to do and where to assemble. But after the first 5 times, I began to realize that I might be wrong. The alarm continued to ring now and then at odd hours. They didn't spare us even during the exam time. There was a "drill'' right before my exams started and right in the middle of exam week. Nobody responded. Many just cursed the alarm to stop working!
I found myself thinking of the story we all heard as kids. "The boy Who Cried Wolf". In my case, it was "The Hostel Alarm that cried FIRE"! At first it was taken seriously, but now its just taken for granted. Fire drills are extremely necessary exercises, but there has to be a limit. Its hard to blame the students for not responding to the alarm when it rings every other night. Whatever is done, it should be done with moderation. Heaven forbid that there should ever be a real fire at my hostel, but even IF there was one, nobody will take it seriously. The blocks and clusters which are far away from the scene of the fire might just dismiss it as another "drill" and go back to sleep, without realizing the danger that they are in. Why do we need so many drills in the span of one semester? Maybe two or three proper drills over a semester will do to warn us of the dangers of fire and to teach us what has to be done.
Whatever the case, I hope there won't be anymore shrilly alarms waking me up at the dead of night for absolutely no reason. And I hope I will never take the alarm as lightly as many of my cluster-mates do.... my life may depend on that. But if things continue like this..... well... lets just hope for the best, shall we?